The Secrets Of Ninjutsu

Ninjutsu is probably one of my favorite Arts – its unique and unorthodox techniques, its higher-level, somewhat ethereal concepts, and the intriguing furtiveness captivated me from the get go.  It is, truly, an Art…and as a dancer and ice skater at heart, artistry is my language.

I’ve (rather sadly) seen traditional Arts dismissed as irrelevant – many modern-day practitioners want techniques that they can apply to modern-day scenarios.  Makes sense.  But therein lies the deception. Being rooted in a deep and complicated history also means that there are thousands of gems lying within the teachings.  Ones that have not only stood the test of time – when it was truly life and death – but ones that can also be very readily adapted and applied to “today.”

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One of the most interesting facets of Ninjutsu is the whole air of “secrecy.”  It sounds like an exaggeration but trust me, it isn’t.  Even within the walls of an official school, we find lots of “Henka,”or variations on specific techniques – the thing is, they are not always relayed in a straight-forward fashion, and sometimes are only hinted at.  For some Artists, that idea doesn’t go over (I can feel the eye rolls.)

While reading a Curriculum, for example, you might see images that don’t always jive with what the written directions are saying.  It ISN’T a lost-in-translation mistake either.  It’s completely deliberate.

The idea here is not that the “powers that be” of Traditional Ninpo are aiming to be unreasonably difficult, nor necessarily that they want to add some mysterious air that the Art can’t back up.  It’s more about the principle that learning is very much about DOing. Your Sensei is “passing down” the traditions, so to speak, and it drives home the idea that just reading a book, going online, or cerebrally understanding concepts ISN’T enough.  Martial Arts transcends any one approach – it takes grasping the fundamentals intellectually, absolutely, but the Art cannot be realized without being fully hands-on.

Taking it a step further, there are countless layers to the Art – you may learn a technique at one level, only to discover – throughout your own progression – profound jewels embedded deeply with in them…ones you neither could see, nor were capable of comprehending, in earlier training.

Ninpo embraces that we are not always ready for all of the “secrets” but that to develop our true “artistry” will take time, hard work, both finessing and breaking down the techniques until we can create our own. I suppose in a way many Martial Arts take that tact but here, some of the information is simply not shared until one has proven oneself to be ready.

The multi-faceted Ninjutsu is 1,000% NOT for everyone. It is acrobatic, intense, a little bit cryptic, unabashedly sneaky, and incredibly down-and-dirty at times.  Remember, the Ninja needed to survive…not stand on the battlefield until they – or you – were terminated (a la Samurai.)  

Ninjutsu focuses more on learning to keep distance, disabling, taking up an opponent’s space (including mental and spiritual) and getting away with one’s life.  To me, that’s the ultimate – I never began Martial Arts to “beat someone up.”  It’s an ART first and foremost for me, personally.  But, should I be faced with a true threat, I want the ability (or at least the tools) to disable, disengage, and get to safety.  It isn’t about “the fight,” but minimizing injury and getting away.  No ego.  No heroics.

Ninjutsu specifically will expose the student to everything from joint locks, small joint manipulations, grappling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, striking and weapons, to name a few.  I love that we have the opportunity to have such exposure, as many Arts are much more limited in scope. That said, the journey for each practitioner is unique, and built upon vastly different goals – in my own heart, I believe all Martial Arts are worthy and beneficial, markedly different they may be.

Martial Arts isn’t for the faint of heart – Ninjutsu isn’t “gentle” by any stretch, but it does teach us skills by which we can learn to keep ourselves – and our opponents – safe.  At the end of the day, however, we are taught that if we must overcome that individual, we must be prepared to do so.  Fortunately in modern times we don’t have to take it quite that far (certainly not in practice!)

Sometimes techniques hurt, sometimes they baffle, and other times they’re a little difficult to track down…. But each one of them – both the clandestine and the clear – are there should we be required to use them.  

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Wearing With Pride

Little things make me so happy…like the victory my school won in getting a sweatshirt with their name on it.  The overarching brand generally doesn’t allow it, but I think we – the students – asked enough collectively that our instructor was finally heard by the powers that be.

We all have a sense of pride surrounding the quality of training, instruction, and of students who attend, so in a way this is like a show of support to sport the hoodie.  For a Martial Arts school, you always hope that’s the case – the friendships forged there are meaningful because you are in the thick of it together.  Even if you don’t hang out with everyone all the time, you know you can count on mutual respect and feedback when in the dojo.  Since it isn’t ALWAYS the case, it’s a special thing to find that kind of environment.  And as a result…wearing our name out an about puts a huge smile on my face. 🙂

BJJ Gracie Hoodie

BJJ Gracie Hoodie

More Martial Arts fun!

Martial Arts Humor – Friends?

A friend of mine. . .er, a training partner. . .recently posted this.  Humor to be found indeed!

Most of us see each other on the mat, in the Dojo, and sporting a gi.  Period.  

There are those rare occasions on which we are spotted in civilian clothing but generally speaking, “hanging out” translates to “sparring.”  Again, period.

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Even our Facebook message threads. . . it’s all about an impromptu class here, a “did you see that fight?!” there… Our social hour includes rolling, choking, striking…you know, the fun stuff.  But I guess at the end of the day it all works out because we are on the same page…er, mat…right?

Don’t judge.  We all have our thing!

Martial Arts Humor – I’m Not In a Bad Mood

So as a Martial Artist, I’m taught discipline and self-control.  Those things are non-negotiable, especially when you are learning techniques that could save your life (and therefore very much injure another individual.)

I DEFINITELY have those things, and I DON’T take the responsibility lightly.  Let me make that amply clear.

But I’m also not saying I don’t have the urge when I’m stuck behind an incredibly slow driver, inches below the windshield, hands at 2 and 10…and lack of directional control. 

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*insert heavy bag here* 

Yes to Tomato Charcoal Facial Wipes For The Mats

Some of my training partners and I were talking about an issue (several, actually) that comes up a lot in Martial Arts (especially fuller contact ones) – staying clean!

It isn’t pretty, but it’s par for the course, so you just have to be prepared. It’s not only the fact that you are all up in someone’s face (which is a huge part of it), but also about fending off clogged pores, dirt and other offenders.

I ran across these Yes to Tomato Charcoal Facial Wipes recently and was honestly psyched to see them – I’m not crazy about some of the wipes out there because some just don’t feel like they get the job done.  These, though, are formulated with charcoal – a pore-clearing, grime-busting substance that will provide and on-the-go detox when you simply don’t have other options.  They also happen to be black, which my inner goth finds not-so-secretly satisfying.  How badass of you, Yes To!  😉 ) 

The brand has a bunch of other ones too, but I like the idea that these amp up the impurity busting quotient – when you finish a Reflex Development class at Jiu-Jitsu, you WILL be sweating like a farm animal, and you’ll need that extra skin-clearing boost. 

Toss these “LBG”s (cheeky, I like it!) in your gym / dojo bag and keep yourself clean wherever you are, and whenever you need it!

 

Leg Day Splits

I try to split up my leg workouts these days, not because I can’t finish a workout focusing on quads and hams together…but more so because I am FAR too sore when I do both in the same day!  The ramifications of that are not only discomfort on a higher scale, but the inability to train as well in the Dojo / Dojang / on the mats.

Glute recruitment happens either way, but some of the heftiest quadricep dominant and hamstring dominant are relegated to two separate days...meaning I split up the squats and leg press from the deadlifts and single leg deadlifts.

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Now obviously, I’m using those muscles in all of the lower body exercises, but I have found that doing all of them in one day can be too much of a good thing, and I get better results when I am not totally decimated…

LEG DAY 1

  1. Deadlifts – 4 to 5 sets of 10 to 16 (depends on weight)
  2. Single Led Deadlifts – 3 sets of 12 with 45 lb dumbbell
  3. Hip Thrusts – 3 sets of 16 with 80 or 90 lbs (varied foot placement)
  4. Leg Curl – 3 to 5 sets (weight depends on machine)
  5. Straight Leg Cable Kickbacks – 3 drop sets using heavier weight, 3 sets lighter weight
  6. Abs

LEG DAY 2

  1. Smith Machine Squats – 5 sets (varied weight and foot placement. I don’t go heavy here.)
  2. Walking Lunges or Step-Back Lunges – 6 sets, or equal to about 120 lunges, including both sides
  3. Leg Press – MAJOR Drop sets (3 sets with 10 45 plates, 3 sets with 8 45s, 3 sets with 6 45s, 3 sets with 4 45s, 3 sets of single leg presses with 2 45s.)  Nasty.  *LOL*
  4. Sumo Squats – 3 sets of 12 with 65 lb dumbbell
  5. Bent Knee Cable Kickbacks – 3 sets only if I’m not too sore!
  6. Leg Extension – 3 sets at 90 lbs, not too heavy
  7. Abs

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Basically at the end of the week it’s hard to walk! 😉  I LOVE lifting heavy, but I’ve also learned that sometimes I have to go easier, especially these days – because I do Martial Arts, flexibility is MASSIVELY important.  

I need to be mindful and stretch, as well as foam roll (I need to be better about that) – heavy lifting WILL impede your flexibility, like it or not.  Can you have both?  Absolutely!  But the reality is that you will be more limber when you don’t destroy your legs, so either going a little easier…or really making that time to stretch out…will make a difference – your goals will determine what works best!

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Change of Pace…

The point of this post…

My main passions (beyond the Love of my Life and my family!) are Martial Arts, and living a happy, healthy Life (with animals around! 🙂 )  I care about taking good care of myself as I get older – internally and externally.  

Fashion was my career for over a decade, and I LOVED it.  By the age of 23 I was managing over 200 people in Cosmetics and Fragrances in a massive NYC department store – serious fun, and serious education!  By 24 I had forayed into ladies footwear, where I’d stay and grow for many more years – here and overseas.

But while I know those worlds intimately, and cherished that time, I feel like those topics are wildly saturated these days.  When you do Fashion Trend Analysis, the concept of “fast fashion” and obsolescence isn’t novel…  But I have so much “new” to share on here that I can’t seem to disseminate it quickly enough!  

So I’m shifting my focus a bit, and hope that’s okay – I know that “newness” will be covered in spades by some AMAZING bloggers out there.  I’m so grateful to all of you who read and enjoy – I love connecting with the larger Universe, and appreciate the kind support. ❤

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I feel like in many ways I am a dichotomy – a proverbial oxymoron, as it were.  I blame my zodiac most of the time…  Scarcely a disservice to other Gemini – we all know just how multi-faceted we can be!  

Because of my, er, celestial classification I have a habit of taking on seemingly highly opposing activities (boredom is a kiss of doom for us!):

  • Figure Skating —> Takekwondo
  • Classical Ballet —> Hapkido
  • Ballroom Dancing —> Ninjutsu 
  • Hip Hop —> JiuJitsu
  • Aerial Yoga —> Kumdo

In my own mind, of course, EVERYTHING is a dance.

EVERYTHING.

Still…not all of my sports are focused on grooming the way many of my childhood ones entailed – Martial Arts?  Looking pretty is the last thing on my mind!  I didn’t grow up to be a glamorous girl – I admire those who are, absolutely – but glam won’t work for me on a daily basis.

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I am far too active to maintain a quotidian routine of lipstick and updos.  I strive for “natural.”  I want to enhance, not hide.  I want to look the same when I wash my face at Night (lest my other half wonder what happened!) 😉 

Having been trained to perform most of my Life, I was bombarded with notions of grace, beauty, polish, and sophistication very early on.  There are worlds revolving around skincare, makeup artistry, hair design – if you haven’t been exposed to it, you’d be wowed! Those things mattered enormously in the sports in which I was predominantly trained in growing up.  You wouldn’t dare take the ice without your “war paint,” or the stage without the proper bun and shimmer!

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As a result, I know a TON about those arenas – makeup artistry was essentially required for my sports.  I was drawn to it as a child because it was openly creative and there really wasn’t a “wrong way” to do it.  It also took a lot of skill to pull oneself together and, most importantly…

Grooming boiled down to taking your performing sport and competition seriously (not to mention the judges taking YOU seriously at the same time.)  

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At the root of all that, skincare was therefore a big deal – my mother always told me that the canvas matters the most (painting over a blemished surface is much more of a challenge, and means you forego “natural” in pursuit of a hard-to-obtain perfection.)  So, I also know TONS about skincare too, and am often asked about my own regimen.  Having good habits starting early will make a big difference down the road and I’m incredibly thankful I don’t appear to be 37.

As an athlete, taking care of our skin is vital – we are often covered in sweat, rolling on mats, or using communal equipment at a gym / school / dojo etc… So unless cleanliness doesn’t matter, we have to be a bit more mindful. 

I also L ❤ VE being a woman, and I care about aging as gracefully as I am able (I probably own every product known to man! 😉 )  I will never run about in complete shambles, and when I am going out somewhere, I will pull it together! I love Fashion and I loved working in the field – I can’t say I don’t miss it!  And I love womanly things – gowns, pencil dresses, lace, stockings, glitter…  So while “badass” and “edgy” work…so do sexy and beautiful.

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When I’m training, though, I’m probably going to be a ruffled mess…so I always felt like “If you can’t handle me like [this], then I’m not for you!”  I mean… I used to live in a town where people would say, “you should wear your hair down when you workout!  You look so different!  It’s much prettier!”  

“Uh…Excuse me?!”

For me personally, the gym is for working out, staying fit, pushing my limits – not impressing anyone with looks…or anything else!  Superficial doesn’t fit in my scheme of things – I’m there to work, and to do something kind for myself.  There is always room to get dolled up later.  

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The great news? Most of my friends are furiously hardworking – whether in their career, Martial Arts, extreme sports (rock climbing, for one, blows me away!), lifting, or seriously skill-perfecting  sports like shooting, I am always in awe, and ever-encouraged to learn more.   

I’m blessed and thankful to be surrounded by supportive people who could care LESS if my hair is a mess, and I’m purple-cheeked and sweating.  Even if we are doing different activities, there is always respect and support.

I need to make a point to also say that the support of my other half is huge. He inspires me every day with his work ethic, talents, eagerness to learn, and his phenomenal heart, among many other things. ❤  

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The point is…going forward, my posts will reflect more of this aspect of my Life (a huge part of it!) than they have in the past.  As much as I am asked about my skin, and the “outward”…I am also asked on a regular basis about what I do for sports, what my routine looks like, what my nutrition consists of etc…  I feel like I can be most helpful in this way.

I love to inspire, I LOOOOVE to encourage, and I find that there is strong community in sharing… So that’s my plan for now. 🙂

As always, many thanks – I love the wonderful comments, and I appreciate the time all of you take out of your day to spend a moment with me. 

XX ❤ X

*Pascal*

 

 

Martial Arts “Dork” Debacle

Actually, I’m not sure if I’m a dork, a nerd...or something else?  I vaguely recall a contemplative conversation I had with my uncle discussing the nuances of geekery and nerddom, etc.  (We felt he was solidly in “geek” territory himself, though my designation wasn’t wholly clear.)

I’ve discovered that there’s an alarming number of charts, graphs, even venn diagrams to explain the key differences – in combination with countless online quizzes, it sounds like my uncle and I were onto a still ambiguously-answered topic.

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I’m mulling over the below, as one example, wondering whether there is a happy ground anywhere…or at least one less, er, pejorative and vehement than “psychopath”?  Maybe I’m in Martial Arts Geekland?

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ORANGE…

  • Obsessed is a possibility… I have an ardent passion for Martial Arts – one which, I daresay, teeters on the verge of “obsession.”  Not partial.  Full-fledged.
  • I’m also a “workaholic” and “fanatic”…when it comes to sports, career, school…I work incredibly hard, and care about results. Strike-true, chart!  As I always say, however, there is a fine line between dedication and stupidity!  Sometimes those of us with this level of zeal – nigh insatiable at times – push a little too hard.  So while it’s off-putting to see some negatively-leaning attributes in that orangey-pink sphere, they might be fair to say.  
  • Anxiety I struggle with sometimes, but not so much with my Martial Arts – my practice is very much my sanity, and a place where I am very happy to be.  Because anxiety runs in my family, calming and centering activities are a must.
  • Mad Scientist gives me visions of Dr. Finklestien.  Science fascinates me.  I love the intellectual humor.  I was elated over a microscope that I got for Christmas when I was a kid… But I don’t tend to do any experiments these days.  No bunsen burners, no haphazardly put-together, resurrected beasts.  Just kicks, punches, sparring, chokes… I’m straightforward.
  • Nerd.  Therein lies my question… Am I?  Am I NOT?!
  • Dork.  Maybe yes, maybe no.

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BLUE

  • Emotionally unstable? Not in the certifiable way! Emotional?  Absolutely.  Many Martial Artists I know are able to handle stressful situations, but we are human at the end of the day, so emotions are underlying all we do – they are the reason we have the drive to do what we do at all.  We have fire in our souls, eagerness in our bodies, and love in our hearts.  I’ve seen anger too, no question, but rarely. Though I am an ESP (Extra Sensitive Person / Empath) I have gotten more grounded though my practices – I am still very sensitive, but I don’t agressively fly off the handle like I once used to.  I do shut down sometimes (not proud of that) but I’m working on it! Always room to grow and improve!
  • Crazy?  Well…I love vampires, sparkles, and kicking things, so I think I qualify somewhere in there, all the way out in the blue zone!
  • Irrational doesn’t really apply for me.  My old boss once said “you are so responsible, I feel bad for you.”  I know, I had the same “I’m sorry, what?” reaction.  I can be a wild card, but I’m not careless or unsound by any stretch.  Opponents often are, but we can’t afford to be.
  • Psychopath.  No, can’t say that I am.  (Not to say a person bearing said diagnosis is going to totally admit it, but I can safely say I’m not in the psychopathic sector!  Been with too many NPD-afflicted individuals (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and sociopaths so…let’s just say I’ve done my research!)

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YELLOW

  • Socially Inept.  MAJOR nope.  I’m a Gemini – most of the planet thinks I’m a social butterfly.  I can talk to anyone, and am often approached by people who spill a ton of personal information, but as an Empath, I’m more like the elusive butterfly.  I adapt easily so social situations are a breeze. Most Martial Artists I know are warm and very socially capable.  We also know when to shut our traps at the Dojang / Dojo / Academy.
  • Clueless?!  I LOVE to learn, and I believe awareness physically, emotionally, and spiritually is vital.  So this is a big no.  Martial Artists must be aware of his or her surroundings – it’s part of our training, and it is engrained.  I don’t know a single one who is clueless.
  • Sociopath, see Psychopath above!
  • I looked up Dweeb and found “a boring, studious, or socially inept person.”  Ouch.  Well, I’m not at all boring, but I get bored in two seconds.  I’m studious with my sports, but as above, not inept.  1 of 3?

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GREEN

  • Intelligent.  I like to think so! 😀
  • Inventor.  In some ways (in figure skating, in dance, and in Fashion…)  But in the traditional, more mechanical sense?  Not so much. 

Now…There are six designations in each of these circles, so if I was being mathematical about all this:

  • Orange – At least 3 of 6
  • Blue – 1, possibly 2 of 6
  • Yellow – 1, possibly 2 (Nerd / Dork conundrum) of 6
  • Green – 2, possibly 3 of 6

This didn’t solve my problem.

😁

I looked up Dork and Nerd to see which made more sense…but the definitions feel kind of boorish.  Given that Dork falls in the orange, and that’s where I mostly am… I think I’m more Dork than Nerd, which falls (evidently) under the larger umbrella of the almighty “GEEK.”  

So for the sake of ending this novel*… I’m a Geeork.  It sounds kind of Star Wars, doesn’t it!? 😉 

*Nerd is a close contender.  Close to a tie.  So if you call me a Neek, I won’t be offended. 🙂

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Tap Out!

This is something I believe in adamantly...

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I hate to say I’ve seen this, but it happens all the time. Sometimes during training you will catch people waiting to tap – on occasion it isn’t “almost too late,” it’s already too far. 

I am the first person to appreciate drive, and the desire to compete (particularly with oneself – many of us who devote ourselves to Martial Arts are goal setters, and personal achievements are important.)  That said, there is absolutely ZERO room for bravado.  I see it plenty, and we all have a right to behave the way we want to – but it is an attitude and approach I simply can’t get behind.

When we are training, we MUST be mindful.  If we are a higher belt, mindful awareness should go without saying.  And if we are a lower belt, someone who has rank should be making the point that it is not only OKAY to tap, but that students are encouraged to.  There is no shame, you are not admitting some horrifying defeat by doing it, nor is it a sign of weakness.  You are training intelligently.  Period.

Tapping is intended to keep you – and your body parts – safe!  You want to train as long as possible, right!?  When you feel pressure, you should tap.  If it hurts, you waited to long!  

Fortunately at my Taekwondo and Hapkido dojang, as well as at the Ninjutsu dojo, and Jiu-Jitsu school, tapping is highly encouraged so that we are in the game as long as possible.

And it isn’t totally about avoiding injury either.  Tapping is important feedback for your training partner – when you tap you indicate that they have “gotten” the technique.  If you wait to long, they will apply more pressure or torque in order to execute the technique…all the while NOT knowing they’ve already done it properly, injuring you in the process.  

I know that movies out there like to push the “tough guy” image, but class is not the place to be acting like you are impervious.  You aren’t.  Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali weren’t either.  We are flesh and blood – bones break, tendons snap, accidents happen.  

So if you feel discomfort because of a technique, that pressure is telling you that you are about to go into dangerous territory – as in, beyond normal mobility and range of motion.  So do yourself – AND your partner – a favor.  

TAP!

Tap, tap, and tap often.  

The safer you train, the longer you can keep at it!